Your friends, their friends, their friend's friends.
It was all of you that may have caused the tidal wave of criticism, betrayal, frustration and downright anger that may struck a collective nerve.
A community up in arms over the systematic destruction of a legacy station deeply rooted in the conscience of Bay Area radio fans.
I reported on Friday that the Cumulus Market Manager here, Steve Sklenar, conceded to an ad buyer that the format change --from talk to all-news, (except on weekend), has been an abject failure and that KGO would probably go back to the talk format, (more on that later).
Sklenar reacted to my report with a "no comment" and when I pressed him further on the matter was steadfast in his earlier no comment stance. He didn't deny my report nor was he dismissive and saying something to the effect, "you're crazy." Which says a lot. It was no coincidence that Lew Dickey himself was in town briefly during the week to talk business. My gut says KGO was on his checklist.
Here's what I believe, (again)--and no, I'm not 100% certain but I also have talked to people in the know who tell me that the move back to talk--a certain hybrid mix of both local and syndicated programming is all but certain and will be instituted within months, perhaps sooner.
Sklenar and others high up in the Cumulus food chain know the situation; the ratings decline, the loss of significant advertisers with only a scant amount of holdovers and continuing free fall with no light at the end of the tunnel. If nothing else, even Cumulus has some degree of pragmatism. They see the downfall of the once-mighty Wurlitzer. They acknowledge the present business model isn't working. In plain English, the hallmark SF radio station is not only buried in the ratings, but cannot even literally give away bonus commercials to attract advertisers and is fast losing their few remaining holdovers.
I can't prove this but I believe KGO is losing money. Like LOSING money. Got that? Which may have been at the forefront of Dickey's trip to the city, among other pressing issues but trust me, this development was at the top. KGO, without the subsidy of money maker KNBR and others in the SF "cluster" would be in the toilet right now essentially drifting away. Only KSFO, the much-for-sale, small guy down at 560 is in worse shape but KSFO, unlike KGO, has far less overhead and actually turns a small profit.
KGO has 50,000 watts and a very strong signal. It is a shame that this once radio behemoth has lost a major listener core of people, older sure, but dedicated and loyal who have posted protest pages on Facebook and organized rallies bemoaning the loss of its community listening outpost and popular talk-show hosts. That in and of itself has resulted in the bottom-barrel ratings, the loss of box-retail advertising and the decline in the bottom line which got the ear, finally, perhaps, of the big suits in Atlanta.
Many of you have come hear to air your grievances and vent your anger and disgust; many of you have come here to get the latest news and information regarding KGO and its current state which has never worked and was even forecast to doom the moment soon after that dreadful day in December, 2011 when the purge took place. Unlike a certain morning host who reacted with a totally phony fifteen-minute plate of disingenuous tripe, you all never backed down and told the new KGO how much they screwed up and how much the nefarious deed they perpetrated would be met by the Bay Area citizens, a group of people more outraged by the day and willing to show that outrage by tuning KGO out and throwing it into the ratings abyss.
YOU succeeded. The domino effect took place and continues to this day. Hence the likelihood of something profound about to take place in the upper corporate offices. And if so, good for you, heck, good for, (I can't believe I'm saying this), Cumulus finally coming to its senses and acknowledging what everyone knew months ago.
KGO, in its heyday, billed as much as $30M a year and had solid #1 ratings status from 1976-2008; its listeners were considered "old", which is really a joke when you consider people in their mid-to-late 60's buy gourmet food, take vacations, buy cars and homes and electronic gadgets and smartphones just like the morning host himself. The same people that live in Marin and Pleasanton, and Burlingame and Foster City and Oakland and Piedmont who were thrown to the wolves.
YOU ALL deserve a huge huzzah! It was all of you that came here, mostly, that refused to let the candle burn out and turn away from what the new KGO tried to reinvent itself. To this day, the idea of KGO competing against KCBS in 24/7 news is ludicrous at best. But that's in the rear-view mirror, it appears.
KGO has the chance to make peace with its listeners. They can hire new, younger, vibrant voices and combine a hybrid of news-talk with the traditional morning, afternoon, and midday news block just like the good old days. They can probably get the Oakland Raiders back on AM and build a relationship on the weekend around a strong sports alliance with Cal football and its affiliates. By doing so it has a chance to upgrade the sad situation currently taking place on the weekend schedule.
Here's a possible blueprint: Morning News, 5-9; Ronn Owens, 9-Noon, (until his contract ends); Noon News; Len Tillem; 2-3, Pat Thurston,3-5; Afternoon News, 5-8 --and either John Rothmann or Ethan Bearman from 8-Midnight. Overnight to be considered ...Probably Bloomberg West or a local overnight show, remember this is just a blueprint. Other hosts like a Christine Craft could fit in on the weekend or weekday nights.
In the next coming days I'm going to reach out to some of the key figures involved in shaping up the new plan which I still believe is a plan-by-committee. Nothing now of course is set in concrete --this whole latest development is in its early embryonic stages, if at all. That said, based on conversations, e-mails, and the like I do sense we are about to see a new radio station re-positioning itself. It will be a difficult transformation and many of its past players will not be a part of the new show but at least, again, hold your breath, Cumulus has seen the light, weighed in your considerable reaction and feelings and has finally decided to make a move.
We will, of course, be here and observe the next moves and gauge your reaction and analysis--as they say, stay tuned.
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Rich Lieberman 415 Media